Thursday 28 June 2012

Wings on Strings

As I mentioned in my introduction to L-katz, two other members of the team (Roger and Tony) also fly separately as a pair. It wasn't until their début at the Southampton Kite Festival, when the PA got a bit confused announcing them (L-katz? Part of L-katz? Just 'Roger & Tony'?), that they realised their pair needs a separate identity, just like the Flying Fish pair has a separate identity from the larger L-katz team. You see the same with several of the UK top teams: when some of their members also fly and compete as a pair, this pair often has a name different from the team.

So here's introducing Wings on Strings, with Tony in #1 position and Roger at #2!

They have been flying together for something like five years, but it wasn't until late last year, when it became clear we would all be flying at the Festival, that they started getting serious about putting a specific routine together.

At the Festival, they really nailed their routine. Of course, Irma and I have seen them practice their routine many many times, and, in my personal opinion, their Festival routine was among their best runs. Everything flowed, everything clicked. So well done, guys! Post-Festival, the aims of Wings on Strings are, first of all, to keep polishing their current routine, and then start thinking about putting an entirely new routine together.

Incidentally, the music that Wings on Strings fly their current routine to is "Apache", by The Shadows.

A phrase often heard when they're flying together is "Don't wave your kite about!", to which the reply then goes along the lines of "Shut up, Tony, you talk too much - were you vaccinated with a gramophone needle??". But believe me, they're good friends!

Roger is also a keen kite photographer, and is in the process of setting up a web-site dedicated to his kite-related photos.

Sunday 24 June 2012

How it all started - 1 of 3

We have now flown our first public routines at the Southampton Kite Festival last weekend, both as Flying Fish and as part of L-katz. But roughly three and a half years ago, we’d never even flown a dual-line kite! So how did we get to into kite-flying in general, and pair/team-flying specifically? The way I see things, there were three significant steps in the road to flying at a Festival, the first of which was getting our first dual-line kite.

Sometime during the Xmas holidays of 2008, I thought it might be nice to get ourselves a dual-line delta kite. We have Southampton Common, a large open park space, close to where we live, so wouldn’t it be fun to have a kite, and fly that there when the weather is nice? Did some research on the web, and given that I didn’t want to spend too much money on something I didn’t know I’d like, I decided on an HQ Yukon. Not expensive, but still getting good reviews as a kite that’s suitable for beginners to learn the basics on. Kite (in the ‘Cool’ colour scheme) was ordered and duly arrived, and off to Southampton Common we went in early January 2009.

Yukon was put together following the instructions, lines were laid out, and, after checking the instructions again, attached to the kite with this funny larkshead knot. Now remember that the only kite-flying experience we had was as kids, flying a cheapo single-line wood-and-plastic contraption that wouldn’t fly properly and crashed to pieces very quickly. So neither of us had ever flown a dual-line kite. OK, the moment of truth was there, with me holding the straps, and Irma standing behind the kite. Pull, launch, crash. Hm … Irma, can you put the kite back on its wing tips? Pull, launch, crash. Hm again .... Irma, can you put the kite back on its wing tips? Pull, launch, crash. Hm x 3 … Irma? Well, you get the picture ... This went on for a few more times. Every time the kite left the ground, it turned to the right and nose-dived to the ground (or ‘lawn-darted’ as we were to learn to call this later). Irma was starting to regard flying kites as maybe not a lot of fun … And then it happened: pull, launch, fly!! Kite went up and stayed up! Steered it a bit to the left, bit to the right, all very careful, but the kite flew and I could control it (well, sort of …)! After flying the kite to the edge of the wind and letting it drop to the ground, it was Irma’s turn. She must have watched my mistakes (i.e. 'playing semaphore', not keeping my hands together) and learned from them, because the kite flew up straightaway, and she could also fly it a bit to the left and a bit to the right. We alternated a few more times, and gained confidence in flying the kite from left to right and back again. This was FUN!!!

But a problem now was that one was flying and the other one standing around, waiting to fly. Easy problem to solve: another HQ kite (Bebop, in the ‘Fire’ colour scheme) was ordered the next day. 

So now we could both fly at the same time, and start to learn the basics of dual-line kite flying. I still remember the first time I decided to try and fly a circle, started the move, and then backed out of it again: too scary! And the moment I persevered and actually flew my first circle!

Many kites on (we're abiding by the golden rule: "the optimum number of kites is one more than current"), we still have our first two kites, and use them to introduce others into the sport. But they do feel like toys to us now! Things have moved on since those early days …

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Flying Fish asked to fly at Leominster/Hereford Kite Festival

Following our début flying at the Southampton Kite Festival, we were asked by both Keith and Barry to come and fly at the Leominster/Hereford Kite Festival, which will take place July 21 & 22.

If all goes to plan, there will be a full STACK round of competition on Saturday, and more relaxed fun-flying on Sunday, possibly involving one or more mega-teams.

Guess Keith and Barry must have enjoyed seeing us fly as a pair/team, and with them, or they wouldn't have asked us!

Given the distance, we'll go there for the whole weekend, enjoy watching the Festival and competition Saturday, and then join in whatever flying there is on Sunday.

Update: unfortunately, this kite festival has had to be cancelled.

Monday 18 June 2012

Southampton Kite Festival

Weather forecasts in the week leading up to the Festival were atrocious, so I guess we shouldn't complain too much that Saturday saw very blustery winds (gusts up to 37mph, but sometimes down to almost nothing) and 'only' some light rain towards the end of the day, while on Sunday the wind was 6-15mph, with a good amount of sunshine and no rain (!).


Despite the very challenging conditions on Saturday, Flying Fish performed their very first two public routines! Our own vented kites could hardly cope with the strong, gusty, and rapidly-changing wind, but Barry and Fran, from Team Flame, were kind (and trusting!) enough to let us fly their super-vented Fury kites (thanks again, guys!) And we pulled it off! Sort of a baptism of air, but we got through our routine (twice) without crashing or any other major mistakes. Sure, it wasn't as polished as it could have been, but we were quite chuffed being able to fly our routine under these conditions.

Team Flame and Ex-Grads (Keith and Vee Griffiths) must have liked what they saw, because I was then asked to fly with them in a 5-(wo)man team. 

Pretty chuffed to be asked to join flyers from teams that were 7th and 10th at the recent World Championships!

So in the air were three super-vented Fury kites (flown by Barry, Fran, and myself), and two Airdynamics T5 Taipan V2 kites (flown by Vee and Keith). I was very pleased to be able to fly along and not make a complete a**e of myself ...

And to round off the day, Barry and Fran asked Irma and me to join them 'for a fun fly', involving four triple-stacks of Warp 9 kites.

Small though these kites are, as a triple-stack they were fast, and pulled quite a bit, but we did manage to fly some basic patterns, including boxes.

We went home exhausted, but very satisfied with our Festival début.


Because the weather was much better, there was a full Festival programme and so Flying Fish flew one routine. Or, to be more precise, one and a half .... During a wrap early in the routine, I got too close to Irma and we crashed into each other, with no chance of recovery. Bummer! Fortunately, we had enough time in our slot to set the kites up and start the music again, and fly our routine from scratch. Think we pretty much nailed it second time round!

With L-katz, we did a practice run before the official start of the Festival, and that was probably the best routine we've ever flown. But alas, during the two times we flew 'officially', we made some silly mistakes, and didn't fly to our ability. Just goes to show, the team routine definitely needs more work. We knew that, but the morning practice at least showed we can do it; we need to improve our consistency.

The final of the day was to be a mega-team fly, and for this, L-katz joined Team Flame, Ex-Grads, and two more flyers (one of whom, Michael, is only 9 years old) for a 11-kite mega-fly. Among these 11 kites were three different types (Fury, T5 and Dream On), so the challenge was first and foremost to try and match speeds (the Dream Ons are smaller and faster than the other two kite types), and then see what else we could do. Some kites crashed out during the mega-fly (and, on occasion, came back in formation again), but Irma and I were very pleased to be able to keep flying throughout. Apart from the infinities and ladders, we flew boxes, round the world cycles, and threads. Sometimes it looks like a cloud of crazy mosquitoes, but keep in mind that the three teams involved had never flown together before, and no one in L-katz had ever flown in such a large group of kites:

As you can probably hear on the video, there was quite a bit of calling to each other, especially from Barry, who was flying lead. But the shout that caused some hilarity came from Vee. At some point, Irma had to dodge another kite, but quickly got back into position. "Well recovered, that man!" shouted Vee. "That man is a woman!", I shouted back. Despite the concentration needed, we had to laugh!

If nothing else, flying in an 11-strong team was definitely exhilarating, and a worthy end to two days of pair/team-flying for us.

All Saturday photos were taken by Roger. All Sunday photos were taken by Rich, who also blogged his personal impression of our performances here. Video credit: Neil Gostling.

Tuesday 12 June 2012


As I hinted at in my first post, we are also part of a team, called L-katz. So here the story of how that came to be, and what we are doing with the team at the moment ...

Solent Kite Flyers has regular fly-meets, and shortly after we became members, we went to Stokes Bay for one of these fly-meets. At that point in time, we didn't know anybody in the club besides the secretary, but we had been told that several team-flyers had Stokes Bay as their default flying field. So a good chance to meet some new people!

As we arrived, there were three blokes flying big noisy kites in close formation. As we didn't want to disturb them, we set our kites up in a corner of the field, and alternated between flying ourselves and watching the formation flying. Soon one of the blokes, called Tony, walked over to us, and we introduced ourselves as new members and talked a bit.

We started going to Stokes Bay on a more regular basis, got to know Tony, Roger and Neil, and before long, they asked us to join them occasionally and fly with them. All we'd done at that point in terms of team-flying was just some basic patterns with the two of us, so flying in a team, with five kites flying in close formation, was really exhilarating!

Roger, Tony and Neil must have liked flying with us, because one day they invited us to join their 3-man team, called L-katz, and so create a 5-(wo)man team. Must say, we were quite chuffed!

So here we are, and L-katz will also fly at the Southampton Kite Festival on June 16/17.

As you can probably imagine, choreography for a team is more complicated than for a pair. Although my kite-routine-writing experience was limited to one pair routine (for Flying Fish), everyone was happy for me to write the team routine, pick the music, and call the moves as team leader, flying in #1 position. Because Irma and I were used to flying together, it made most sense for her to fly next to me as #2, leaving #3 for Tony and #4 for Neil (for several reasons, Roger decided not to fly in the full team in the run-up to the Festival, but he and Tony will fly a separare pair routine). In case you're wondering what we're all pointing at in the picture above, that's us going through the moves, imagining our fingers to be the kites (you can also use little cut-out kites glued to sticks; may look silly, but it works!)

As with the Flying Fish routine, we tried to keep it simple and mostly combine the moves and patterns we'd already been flying into a routine.

Unfortunately, we lost a lot of practice time due to bad weather or illness or work commitments of one flyer or another, so we are not as prepared for the Festival as we are with Flying Fish, but we'll simply do what we can! The music we're flying our team routine to is Gloria Estefan's "Can't Stay Away from You".

As before, the pictures in this post were taken by Roger, the 5th member of L-katz.

Saturday 9 June 2012

New profile picture

To welcome us into the blogosphere, a friend and colleague of mine sent me an artful reworking of my old profile picture. As it looks much nicer than the old one, I've replaced it. Thanks Rich!

Rich maintains the Cabbages of Doom blog, which covers everything (well .... ) from evolutionary science to wine and cream teas. Recently, he has been playing with ArtStudio and this is his latest creation. We've also dragged him and his wife with us on occasion when we went kite-flying, and he hinted in his latest blog post that he wouldn't mind this again. Maybe we can give him a first taste of pair-flying?? Watch this blog!!

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Flying Fish's first routine

When it became clear late last year that we were going to fly at the Southampton Kite Festival, we had to stop faffing around and get serious with a proper routine. So what do you need for a pairs ballet?

1. Kites - yes, without them it becomes a wee bit challenging. As many kites as you have flyers (so two, in this case), large and precise (we're talking well over 2m wing span, preferably closer to 2.5m), and they ought to be same, set up in exactly the same way, so they react the same and fly at the same speed. Tick that box, we have several pair/team kites, for a range of wind conditions. I'll introduce the kites we have for pair/team-flying in another post.

2. Music - whatever tickles your fancy; you really don't want to fly to music you don't like, as you will hear it ad nauseam during practice. Between 2 and 5 minutes long, and it needs to be suitable for a kite routine. Slowish and flowing is a good start; heavy metal usually doesn't work ...

3. Choreography - the sequence of moves and patterns.

Ideally, the moves and music match up perfectly throughout, but as I had never written a kite routine before, I wanted to start off simple, with the music more forming a backdrop to the kites flying than every move perfectly matched to something in the music. After all, we weren't trying to challenge the Scratch Bunnies, the reigning World Champions, were we? So what we did was take several of the moves we had been practicing so far, and string them together in such a way that it flowed. Couple of new, more daring, moves towards the end, but not too difficult. Better to fly a simpler routine well than make a mess of a more difficult one. Also we had to make sure that the end was flexible, so we could adapt to the wind speed as we were flying. Don't forget, the aim is to land the kites exactly when the music stops!

The music we picked for our first routine was "Ruthless Queen" by Kayak, a Dutch band. This song dates back to the late 1970s, so you may not be familiar with it. In that case, here's a video of the band performing the song:

And no, there are no videos (yet?) of us flying our routine, so until they exist you'll just have to come to the Southampton Kite Festival on June 16 and/or 17, and watch us fly live, won't you?

Credit where credit is due: the pictures in this post were taken by Roger, one of our kiting buddies; thanks!

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Flying Fish Kiting Team!


I decided to start a blog. Why? Well, several reasons, actually. First of all, my wife and I seem to belong to a rather rare species in the UK: a dual-line kiting team, or to be more precise, a kiting pair (we're also part of a team, though; more on that later). Second, we're about to become 'grown-up', in the sense of flying at a public event. This will happen on June 16 & 17, at the Southampton Kite Festival. So, as we're the new kids on the block, maybe a good time to establish a web-presence, and let anyone interested know what we're up to in terms of kite-flying. To tell how we got to this point. To talk about what's happening in the world of kite-pair/team-flying. To promote pair/team-flying. And a final reason for starting a blog is simply to see what it is like to maintain one.

Bit more introduction in this first post; more will come in later posts. Flying Fish consists of Lex and Irma, Dutch born and bred, but living and working in the UK for close to 20 years now. We both have busy jobs (Irma as a landscape gardener; Lex as a university lecturer), but try to fly kites during weekends and other days off as much as we can (and the weather allows). We normally fly at Stoney Cross, New Forest, on Saturdays, and Stokes Bay, near Lee-on-the-Solent, on Sundays (together with other members of Solent Kite Flyers, the local kite-flying club that we're members of).

This blog will hopefully grow over the coming weeks and months, and be a mixture of kiting past, kiting present, and kiting yet-to-come ... But I'm going to finish writing this first post now, and see whether I can actually publish it! Here goes (if you read this, it worked ...).